The following is from Carla McAllister about her library memories. It was originally used for the 125th anniversary of the New Gloucester Public Library. Do you have library memories you'd like to share as a blog post? Email us at
Locked in the Library
by Carla McAllister
When I was young and growing up in a small New Hampshire town, I visited our library on a regular basis. Back in the day, when borrowing an item, one wrote one’s name on the card tucked into the pocket in the back of each book. Proponents of rights to privacy might blanch when reminded of this practice. It was amusing to me that, as I got older, I would often see that my mother and I chose the same titles, her familiar signature apparent on the sign out card.
My mother was an avid reader and became a published author, newspaper writer, and photographer. She read to my brother and me nearly every evening. This instilled in us both a lifelong love of reading. I can, today, read under nearly any circumstance. I can read in a bowling alley and often did so when I was a member of a bowling league; I can read with music or television blaring around me; I can read in a boat, in a plane, on a treadmill, and while walking on a sidewalk, which I did through my school years as it was about a mile to school. I can read for hours in a vehicle, preferably with a supply of chocolate near to hand. I would often rather read than interact with people.
My mother owned and loved two different black VW beetles. As I was always small for my age, I fit quite nicely for many years in the luggage space right under the back window. This is where I would sit with my books as we rode around doing errands. I had no seat belt, heaven forbid, and I am sure this practice would be discouraged and surely against the law today.
I was never more content than when I rode my bicycle to the library and returned with my baskets overflowing with books. Looking back at pictures from my childhood, often I have a book in my hands and piles of books surrounding me. I can easily recall what was taking place and what my feelings were at any given time by looking at the covers of what I was reading. My mother would scold me when visiting relatives, as I would often curl up somewhere to read rather than join in the conversation. I know parents now who would like to have such a problem; parents whose children would rather do anything other than read.
My new husband has become reconciled to the fact that I will, most likely, forgo going into any store, be it a grocery store or Home Depot, so that I might read, and he will automatically park in such a way that I can alternate between my reading and people watching. In the dark, this requires that he find a space with a streetlight shining in my side of the vehicle. He is well-trained at this point. Additionally, more likely than not, he will return with some form of chocolate for me.
I always carry books with me; one I am reading and two others in case I finish my current choice. Two, in case one of the back-ups is not to my immediate liking. It is absolutely astonishing how much reading one can accomplish while waiting, waiting for the dentist or doctor to call you in, waiting for a prescription to be filled, waiting for commercials to end, waiting for your husband to pump the gas, or waiting for him to check out that tractor or some such item for sale on the roadside. In my case, I often have tons of time to read when he is in a hardware store or lumber supply outlet.
I have often said that I would need no anesthesia while undergoing dental work or perhaps even a colonoscopy, as long as I had an interesting book to read. When visiting homes where no reading material is apparent, I am appalled and cannot imagine living under such conditions. Bathroom visits require reading material. When none is on hand, I have been known to read Lysol bottles, disinfectant spray bottles, toilet bowl cleaner bottles and directions on prescription bottles. What one finds in bathrooms not one’s own, can be revealing, humorous and sometimes distressing.
Like my parents, I am extremely frugal, some might say tight, and reading is such an inexpensive pastime that it fits my needs perfectly. One can obtain nearly any title either through the local library or through Interlibrary Loan, a fabulous resource of which many remain unaware. Sure, there are the new-fangled e-readers and the like, but to read a book all one needs is a book and a light source; no fully-charged battery, available wi-fi or pricy and often maddening device. Plus, I would rather lose a book somewhere than lose an expensive e-reader.
When I was laid off after over eleven years of working at an Auburn Payroll company, I decided I would pursue a job I could really love, so I took classes in librarianship. After obtaining a degree, I was on the look-out for a job in a small public library. They are few and far between. When the New Gloucester Public Library opening was advertised, I thought that I would never be lucky enough to be chosen. Ultimately I was offered the position and I felt as if I had won the lottery.
When I was young, I dreamed of inadvertently getting locked in the library overnight. I even thought of ways I might make it happen. Well, here I am now at the New Gloucester Public Library and I could not be happier. During my hour long lunch each day, I choose to be locked in the library…I enjoy that hour immensely.
I have two addictions to which I will admit; chocolate and reading. I have a cache of chocolate items squirreled away, I am working with books, I have avenues to knowledge at my disposal, my working atmosphere is positive and people I see each day are (nearly always) pleasant, and my colleague is every bit as much of a bibliophile and chocoholic as I, and I admit to hanging in the library after closing to read and live the fantasy.
My library memories are myriad and, as you can see, I could not make this short and sweet. I will say, my childhood dream of being ‘locked in the library’ has come true and I couldn’t be more thrilled.